Medical waste management entails so many rules and protocols you must follow, and under that umbrella, hospital waste management is certainly no exception. There are numerous hospital-specific regulations you must follow in order to be fully in compliance with your facility, state, and federal rules.
Hospital Waste Management: How to Get (and Stay) Compliant
Proper Red Bag Waste Disposal
Hospitals tend to create a fair amount of regulated medical waste—some hospitals requiring a shipment of red bag waste a day. That's why it's imperative every employee who encounters this waste stream knows how to properly deal with it. This includes knowing what does and does not go in with the red bag waste. The most notable items to keep out of your regulated waste include expired medications and regular trash (such as food scraps).
Proper regulated medical waste disposal also involves adequate training regarding all containers, including the red bags themselves and puncture-resistant sharp bins.
Proper Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal
Another kind of waste commonly created in a hospital is invariably pharmaceutical waste, and all employees need to be trained on the proper handling and disposal of this as well.
Hospitals, depending on a number of factors, such as size and amount of time in operation, vary greatly in their pharmaceutical waste disposal compliance. Some are following every rule, while others are only partially compliant. Others still are flat-out doing this wrong. This might be because the hospital is quite small and simply doesn't know the proper way of dealing with this waste stream. Other times, the hospital doesn't feel as if it can absorb the cost of doing this process right—and figures they'll risk it until caught.
This is a dangerous mentality for two major reasons. One, it means hazardous materials are not being stored, transported, or disposed of properly, putting people and the environment at risk. Two, it's also financially risky. If you're caught being willfully noncompliant in your hospital waste removal, the fines can quickly outstrip anything you'd pay to reputable, honest, experienced medical waste management companies. This becomes especially true if you're caught for a second offense. While you might get away the first time with a warning or a small fine, you can bet that subsequent punishments are going to be exponentially more severe.
Other Facets of Hospital Waste Disposal
A hospital will generally also produce the following waste streams:
- Lab waste, if a laboratory is on site.
- Maintenance waste, such as paints, cleaners, and so on.
- Universal waste, such as batteries and light bulbs. (These don't ship out as hazardous waste, but they do need to be recycled.)
The best way to assess what your hospital needs to do in regard to all these waste streams is to walk through and conduct an audit. This will reveal what needs to be changed and what processes need to be put in place for full compliance. This can be done on your own or with a reputable waste management company.
If you do choose to go with a waste management company, make sure they cater to a hospital of your size and needs. Also make sure they provide physical necessities (waste containers, for example) as well as educational guidance and suggestions regarding how best to approach your waste management.
For more information about how to dispose of hospital waste correctly or what your hospital needs to do to be compliant, please feel free to reach out to a representative of MCF Environmental Services, an Atlanta waste management company.